Pan Am Games Dressage: Reflections on the Competition

This has been my third Pan Am Games, and just as with the previous two Games in Rio and Guadalajara, everything went by in a whir of excitement. I never seem to learn! I look at the schedule ahead of time, note the ‘rest day’ between the team and individual finals, and think ‘oh I’ll have lots of time to relax and digest everything.’ Of course it never turns out that way for me, and I would venture to say the same happens to the many, many people involved – from organizers to athletes, grooms and officials. But that frenetic pace contributes to the tremendous rush that is being a part (even in such a minor role as that of a member of the media) of a major international championship.

Credit: Karen Robinson Steffen Peters, Individual Gold Medalist at the 2015 Pan American Games

It’s less than 24 hours since Americans Steffen Peters, Laura Graves and Canada’s Chris von Martels won the individual medals yesterday, but I have already been able to allow myself the luxury of taking a closer look at the scores, assessing the complicated qualification criteria for next year’s Olympics, and savoring a few highlights from the week. I’d like to spend this final post from Toronto sharing with you what were a few of the outstanding moments of this Pan Am Games dressage competition.

Kimberly Herslow and Rosmarin
This was a stunning team debut for Herslow and her handsome black gelding. Their Intermediate I test was, for me, the most technically exciting performance of the entire competition. Rosmarin leaves me with the impression he gives every ounce of himself, every time he goes in the ring. During Herslow’s Intermediate I test, I was standing with an athlete from another country chatting. She said to me, ‘watch this horse’s tempi changes. They are like clockwork.’ Yes it’s clockwork, but it’s clockwork come very much to life. I spoke with Herslow yesterday following the freestyles, and you can read about our conversation in my Pan Am Games coverage in the September issue of Dressage Today. She told me that her horse’s nickname is The Mailman, “because he always delivers.”

Credit: Karen Robinson Kimberly Herslow and Rosmarin

Canada’s Performances
Being a Canadian, I can’t help but be inspired by the incredible results the Canadian riders produced in front of an appreciative home crowd. It was a long string of personal bests that brought Canada much closer to challenging the US for gold than anyone had anticipated. Chris von Martels’ bronze medal is the first individual Pan Am Games Dressage medal for Canada since Leslie Reid won gold in 2003 in the Dominican Republic. Teammates Belinda Trussell and Brittany Fraser were remarkable as well, tying for fourth in the freestyle. Ties in the freestyle are broken in favor of the highest artistic marks, so officially Trussell finished fourth and Fraser fifth. As the Canadian chef d’equipe Alison Martin said yesterday, “I think everyone’s going to wake up and say ‘hey’ when the Canadians head down centerline next time.”

The New Format

This was very much an experiment, the combined levels of small and big tour. Other than a couple of pilot events in Florida over the past two years, it was a bit of an in-at-the-deep-end adventure for the FEI and for the teams. As I said to Robert Dover yesterday, it seemed to me that the combined levels worked, even in the freestyle, after which we saw both divisions on the podium. Robert agreed, and he also said he believes it is a stepping stone to moving toward an entirely Grand Prix Pan Am Games in the future. He suggested that at the 2019 Pan Ams in Lima, Peru, the teams should be composed of a minimum of three Grand Prix combinations and no more than one Prix St. Georges team member. I would be curious to know what countries from Central and South America would say to that idea. Argentina and Mexico were the only countries other than the US and Canada to have at least one Grand Prix team member in Toronto. It would be fantastic to see that kind of growth in dressage in the Americas four years from now, but I’m not convinced it can happen that quickly.

The only real disappointment of the 0215 Pan Am Games Dressage was the complete absence of any TV or live stream coverage. I can confirm that the CBC, the official Toronto 2015 media partner, did not have its broadcasting set up at all during the dressage. All foreign broadcasters, including ESPN, the rights holder for US broadcast of the 2015 Pan Am Games, are completely at the mercy of the official media partner to provide the feed. And that is why, sadly, there has been no video footage available for media for live, or even playback, coverage.

I hope that, in the absence of TV or web coverage, you have enjoyed my posts from Toronto this past week, and that I have managed to bring to you at least an idea of how the competition went. Look for my article in the September issue of Dressage Today.

Until soon!

Karen Robinson

Link to individual results:

Link to team results:






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